It’s been over a year since I returned from Palestine, and almost a year of official unemployment. My parents look at me with deep concern in their eyes; I feel that some of my friends are intentionally avoiding the thorny issue of my continuing joblessness. Sure, from the outside the situation looks pretty dire: in my thirties, living with my parents, no money saved for a rainy day, seemingly unable to get a job that I actually want or that I would find rewarding. Single with no sign of romance on the horizon.

And yet this transition is turning into a long journey of self-discovery. I haven’t been working in a job, but I’ve been working on myself – getting to the bottom of what makes me happy, what makes me sad or insecure. Once the journey starts, you have no idea where it will take you; all you can do is give in to the uncertainty. It has in fact only been in the last few weeks that I’ve seen the value in this time, when before I was always thinking I should be doing something else. It turns out that I shouldn’t – I needed to be right here, with myself. This is my year of growth, and the gestation period is not yet over.

Transitions take time – we can’t expect to put one chapter of our lives behind us and move on to a new one straight away. Just learning to accept that certain aspects of my life, certain habits, need to change or stop altogether has been a process in itself. Each time I’ve thought I’d reached some acceptance about moving on from my previous career there’d be a new job advertised to try and suck me back in. It is really only in the last month or so that I’ve truly learned to say no to these temptations. I know my boundaries – what I’m willing to do, and what I know I shouldn’t do because it will hurt me or set me on a backward path. But it has taken time to reach this point. And so the transition is by no means over – actually it has only just begun, and the next chapter of my life is yet to unfold.

This is a transitioner’s biggest challenge – having the patience to let the journey and strength not to force our future but to go with the flow. People use this term all the time, but how often do we really put it into practice? We like to think that we are spontaneous and relaxed about what comes our way, but I’ve realised that actually I’ve spent much of my life trying to control what happens. We do this as a defensive measure, to avoid disappointments or having to face an unpleasant truth about ourselves. It is only when we truly stop what we’re doing to be still and present, that we can begin to understand what is meant by ‘the flow’ – the wave of different emotions and feelings that arise from slowing down and focusing on ourselves instead of what surrounds us. To go with the flow means letting go, surrendering, and understanding that we cannot force the answers. Transitions by their very nature imply an element of uncertainty, and all we can really do is embrace that and wonder at the surprises that reveal themselves once we stop trying to control our trajectory. This can mean that some days there appear to be an abundance of opportunities, but other days nothing seems quite right. Progress can be shoddy; two steps forward, one step back. I have to remind myself each time I feel dissatisfied and full of self-doubt – and these occasions do certainly still occur though not as often, thankfully – that I also have moments of great excitement and anticipation, where I feel like Tony in West Side Story singing ‘Something’s coming’.

Could be!
Who knows?
There’s something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there’s a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something’s coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

I can’t expect to experience growth and expansion every day. But I’m learning to regard each difficult experience or emotion as something to learn from, rather than something to avoid or be afraid of. And so when I had some acupressure treatment which left me crying every day for four weeks, I ultimately chose to embrace that experience – confront it head on, rather than run away from it, and understand that the hurt I felt from it was a form of healing, of letting go. Now I go to the centre every week for meditation and Qi Gong classes, and it’s a profound experience each and every time. I’ve become more aware of my fragilities, that I’m not the tough person I thought I was. I’m more like a precious object (we all are) that needs to be handled gently, by myself and by others. This discovery has inevitably resulted in me having to avoid certain social situations; there is no longer any payoff for placing myself in environments which are destructive for my sense of wellbeing.  Of course, recognising what those situations are is not always easy, and on several occasions I’ve misjudged it, resulting in a sad and lonely end to the day. But soon after that I’ve picked myself up again, brushed myself off and said to myself, ‘OK, so today’s lesson is…’ Every lesson is a blessing, good or bad – they help us find our inner truth. It is only once we go through some kind of shedding process that our true selves can really emerge.

Now I find myself hunting out those things I know will nurture me and give me confidence, which in my case is increasingly linked to creative interests. A year ago I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that I would be blogging, or singing in a choir (which I recently joined after not having sung for at least 15 years), or going to meditation classes where I do 20 minutes of chanting followed by 20 minutes of ‘Heaven and Earth’ movements. I doubt I would have done any of these things if I was back in a 9 to 5 job.

What I realise now is that this time is an opportunity to try new things, but also to pursue any interests that have for some time been lying dormant. I’m reminded of what one of the Qi Masters said to me last week. She was referring to a true story by George Ritchie, who died for nine minutes and was then brought back to life. In those nine minutes, he literally saw his life flashing before his eyes. The biggest lesson he learned from the experience is that if there is something in your life you want to do, then you must go and do it; you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and your last breath should be one of fulfilment, not of disappointment. I haven’t yet read the book but it’s next on my reading list. I’ve become a junky for anything that inspires me right now, including true stories and self-help books. They’ve replaced my obsession with reading the newspapers and Human Rights Watch reports – no bad thing for me right now, if you read my previous blog post on burnout.

So a final word on my transition so far? I’m still in the gestation period. Maybe one day in the next month, or the next year, I’ll be ready to emerge from my cocoon of self-inquiry and healing – radiant, confident and ready to fly.

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